The playgrounds of trigger-happy trophy hunters are far removed from the fertile fruit farms of the Western Cape and Eastern Cape. But a recent television expose of driven hunting has established a disturbing link between the agricultural and hunting sectors. The link is Anton de Vries – a Dutch businessman and fruit exporter whose companies SAFE & BONO are strategic partners in the government’s agrarian land reform policies.
De Vries owns or manages over 20 fruit, livestock and game farms in South Africa, including three in Alldays, Limpopo, where the driven hunt took place. Unlike traditional hunting, in which target animals have a reasonable chance of escape, all the shooters had to do was take pot shots at the traumatised targets who were chased into their sights.
Like canned lion hunting, in which the animals are caged and drugged, driven hunting is not illegal in South Africa. Unlike canned hunting however, this unethical sport has until now never been exposed in South Africa. It comes in the wake of the recent killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe and the release of Blood Lions – a documentary exposing the brutal underbelly of canned lion hunting.
The fact that De Vries has been implicated in this hunt adds further fuel to an ongoing investigation by the SABC into the Dutch businessman’s activities in allegedly swindling farmworkers and farming co-operatives out of their profits and thus depriving the rightful beneficiaries of the government’s land reform policies.
Through its BEE company, BONO, whose CEO is the politically connected Evans Nevondo, SAFE is mandated to provide infrastructural and economic empowerment on the farms it manages. On its website, BONO advertises its certification by Fairtrade, an international body that sets standards for exports, based on adequate labour and living conditions for farming communities.
But BONO was decertified in July 2015 for non-compliance.
The driven hunt in Limpopo was justified on the grounds that it gives work and food to impoverished rural communities where unemployment is rife and job opportunities scarce. In this hunt, occurring over five days, 83 ‘beaters’ were employed to chase antelope, baboons and warthogs toward the shooters. Over 100 animals were gunned down in what the NSPCA has condemned as a ‘massacre’. That’s not taking into account the scores of animals that were wounded in the process.
After De Vries was exposed on television for the driven hunt in Limpopo, the SAFE and BONO website was shut down.
At the time, neither De Vries nor Nevondo were available for comment. But shortly after their activities were exposed on SABC News, their PR firm made contact, requesting that their clients be given the right of reply to the serious allegations leveled against them.
SABC will afford them the opportunity to defend themselves.
The full version of this investigation will be broadcast on Special Assignment, Sunday 4th October at 8.30pm on SABC3.